Bhutto Assassinated

27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack this morning. Given my previous post about the excessive media coverage of campaign strategy and political horse race issues, maybe they'll slow down and explain the complex political situation in Pakistan now.

UPDATE: Nope. They'll always find a way to turn an issue back to the horse race.

This Week's Links



Media Studies

26 December 2007

The Center for Media and Public Affairs has a new report on the major television news outlets' recent campaign coverage. Some of this is pretty interesting.

Issues covered
-Campaign strategy and tactics: 191 stories
-Policy issues: 188 stories
-Candidates' standing in the horse race: 162 stories

Most frequently debated policy issues
#1 Illegal immigration (32 stories)
#2 Iraq (22 stories)
#3 Electoral reforms (18 stories)
#4 Abortion (13 stories)
#5 Iran (12 stories)

Also, the League of Conservation Voters looked into the Sunday political talk shows and found them to be very much lacking in any serious discussion of energy policy. Of their 2,275 questions for the candidates, only 3 dealt with the issue.

Ron Paul Does Not Believe in Evolution

25 December 2007

He also thinks that the Constitution is "replete" with references to God, despite the fact that it mentions God exactly zero times.

UPDATE: This graph never ceases to amaze me.

Mike Huckabee on the Source of Our Laws

24 December 2007

Mike Huckabee recently made this claim in an MSNBC interview:

"The Ten Commandments form the basis of most of our laws and therefore, you know if you look through them does anybody find anything there that would be all that objectionable? I don't think most people would if they actually read them."
This claim is pretty easy to refute. In fact, Ed Brayton has already done it:
Of the ten commandments, only two would even be constitutional in the United States, with a third being constitutional in limited circumstances. The other 7 could not possibly be the basis for any law because they would be clearly unconstitutional. Let's take a look at them one by one:

1. Thou shall have no other Gods before me.

Blatantly unconstitutional. The free exercise clause of the first amendment guarantees that we each have the right to follow any God and any religious belief system we wish.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

Also unconstitutional on free exercise grounds. Americans can make any graven image they wish to make, and bow down to whatever god or idol they wish.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

Unconstitutional on both freedom of religion and free speech grounds.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

Again, unconstitutional on free exercise grounds.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother

A good idea, in most cases, but a law requiring it would be unconstitutional and outside the purview of government. You can't legally enforce an individual's feelings toward their parents.

6. Thou shalt not kill

This one is obviously constitutional, and is a part of our legal system. But it's also found in EVERY legal system, even those that have nothing to do with the bible or Christianity. No society can condone murder of each other and survive, so this is simply a survival imperative.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery

Another one that is a good idea, but not constitutional if legally enforced. Adultery is a moral wrong, but it's a private matter between individuals.

8. Thou shalt not steal

This is the second one that is obviously constitutional, but also found in every legal system regardless of the religious system that may have initially spawned it. A universal imperative that would be part of the law even if the bible never existed.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour

Some have interpreted this to be analagous to our perjury laws, but nothing in the text indicates that. It's talking about lying in general, not in a legal sense during court proceedings. And while lying may be wrong, it's not legally wrong except in specific circumstances - perjury and libel/slander. Under our system, most instances of lying would be covered by the first amendment free speech clause.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's

Not only unconstitutional, it would require the ability to read minds. If coveting what your neighbor has was against the law in the US, there would be no "keeping up with the Joneses". You cannot, under our system, legislate against thoughts or feelings.

The "basis of most of our laws"? Not even close.

Inhofe's Pre-Christmas List

23 December 2007

Former real estate developer and failed insurance company president James Inhofe (R-OK) passionately believes that the overwhelming majority of published climate scientists and scientific organizations have simply got it all wrong when they say that global warming is mostly due to anthropogenic emissions. In the past, he has called the Environmental Protection Agency a "Gestapo bureaucracy" and said that "Global Warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Oh yeah, and he has received $972,973 from the Oil & Gas industries, $337,313 from Electric Utilities, $211,350 from the Automotive industry, and $133,300 from the Mining industry.

This past week, Inhofe (along with conservative journalist Marc Morano) released an insanely padded list of "400 Prominent Scientists [Who] Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007."

Apparently it's not a strict requirement that any of these "prominent scientists" actually be "scientists" at all. Included in the list is Christopher Monckton, who Inhofe simply calls a "climate researcher." Monckton has a degree in journalism, but has neither any training nor any experience in climate science. Inhofe would have been more accurate to describe Monckton as an "amateur," since it is blatantly misleading to call him a "climate researcher." Oh, and Monckton also seems to believe that he is a member of the House of Lords, despite the fact that "The House of Lords Act 1999 disqualified all hereditary peers for membership of the House, but excepted from this general exclusion 90 hereditary peers" (note: Monckton was not among the 90).

Apparently, you didn't need to actually deny the idea that anthropogenic emissions drive global warming in order to make the list, either. Among those listed as "prominent scientists" is Ray Kurzweil (who isn't really a scientist per se, but is rather a brilliant inventor who created "the first true electric piano"). He made the list simply for saying this:

None of the global warming discussions mention the word ‘nanotechnology. Yet nanotechnology will eliminate the need for fossil fuels within 20 years. If we captured 1% of 1% of the sunlight (1 part in 10,000) we could meet 100% of our energy needs without ANY fossil fuels. We can't do that today because the solar panels are too heavy, expensive, and inefficient. But there are new nanoengineered designs that are much more effective. Within five to six years, this technology will make a significant contribution
Basically, despite the fact that Kurzweil has said "I think global warming is real," and is not in any way a climate scientist, he made this list simply for believing that nano-technology will fix the problem in the future. I wish him luck, and hope he can make good use of his skills in this arena, but I also want to highlight how horribly dishonest Inhofe is being by using such examples to pad his list and make his case that "prominent scientists" reject the "consensus." This is really just so much sleight of hand.

As another example, Inhofe included John Maunder (an actual climate scientist) simply for saying that climate science will never be "fully understood." Seriously. The bar is set pretty low here.

Nonetheless, I'm sure that plenty of the people on this list genuinely believe, as Inhofe does, that this is all just some made-up bad science, and the scientific community at large (particularly all those peer-reviewed journals and scientific organizations) has simply engaged in some sort of mass-hysteria. But who are these people, and do their opinions on climate science really matter?

Although this point should be obvious, it's worth pointing out that being a "scientist" does not make one a "climate scientist," or mean that you have any relevant qualifications. As atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler puts it:

To understand why Inhofe's claims are fundamentally bogus, consider the following scenario: imagine a child is diagnosed with cancer. Who are his parents going to take him to in order to determine the best course of treatment?

Most people would take the child to a specialist. Not just someone with a PhD in a technical subject, but an actual medical doctor. And not just any medical doctor, but someone who was a specialist in cancer. And not just any specialist in cancer, but someone who was a specialist in pediatric cancer. And, if possible, not just any pediatric oncologist, but someone who specialized in that particular type of cancer.

Expertise matters. Not everyone's opinion is equally valid.

The list of skeptics on the EPW blog contains few bona fide climate specialists. In fact, the only criteria to get on the list, as far as I can tell, is having a PhD and some credential that makes you an academic. So Freeman Dyson makes lists. While I'm certain he's a smart guy, I would not take a sick child to him

Also, for those who do have the relevant qualifications, have they been publishing their research in peer-reviewed journals? If so, has anyone responded to their claims? I don't really have the time or patience to go through the entire list, but I would tend not to trust Inhofe's evaluation. Especially given the fact that I could already see so many sneaky tricks from just a cursory glance at this list.

UPDATE: More on Inhofe's touted peer reviewed publications here.

UPDATE II: Included in the list of 400 is "CBS Chicago affiliate Chief Meteorologist Steve Baskerville." Joseph Romm looked into this TV weatherman and found that “Baskerville is an alumnus of Temple University and holds a Certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University.” Yeah, these guys don't seem like the most "prominent scientists" in the world.

UPDATE III: This list mentions three geomagnetism scientists. (h/t Climate Progress)

UPDATE IV: Agnes Genevey:
Agnes Genevey — whose “research” on global warming is brutally picked apart by RealClimate here and especially here (and again here by other scientists), who together “expose a pattern of suspicious errors and omissions that pervades” their work.
UPDATE V: You can always count on FOX News journalists like Brit Hume to pass these memes along.
FOX News Alert: "More than 400 scientists are challenging claims by Al gore and the United Nations about the threat from man-made global warming."

UPDATE VI: Mark Steyn, filling in on Hannity & Colmes, says this: "A new Senate report reveals that more than 400 scientists disputed the global warming is man made. Will Al Gore now stop saying that the climate crisis is not up for debate?" Despite the fact that the list did not require you to be a scientist or to dispute that claim.

Oh, and here is the graphic they chose to show:

UPDATE VII: Inhofe describes John McLean as a "climate data analyst" and "prominent scientist." Despite the fact that McLean is described elsewhere as merely having an "amateur interest in global warming," and he apparently has no relevant qualifications or publications. This is really pretty silly.

UPDATE VIII: Inhofe says this:
Only 52 Scientists Participated in UN IPCC Summary
The over 400 skeptical scientists featured in this new report outnumber by nearly eight times the number of scientists who participated in the 2007 UN IPCC Summary for Policymakers. The notion of “hundreds” or “thousands” of UN scientists agreeing to a scientific statement does not hold up to scrutiny.
Yet he fails to explain that his "52" number only encompasses the brief Summary For Policymakers issued with the report.

Furthermore, Inhofe fails to explain that his "400" number was not a group of scientists who banded together and issued a joint statement. Instead, it's a collection of quotes Inhofe and his staffers probably found through Google searches. It was not a requirement that any of these people actually be scientists, and it was not a requirement that any of them actually dispute the idea that anthropogenic emissions contribute the most to our recent warming.

UPDATE IX: Just to remind everyone, Inhofe has a long history of passing along false, misleading, and discredited memes to make his case that our recent warming trend is not caused by anthropogenic emissions.

For example, he has touted the 1998 Oregon Petition this past year, claiming that "17,800 scientists" dispute the idea that anthropogenic emissions drive global warming. Despite the fact that the petition was available online for anyone to sign, it did not require that you have any relevant background (or any scientific training whatsoever), and pranksters were able to include Star Wars characters and Spice Girls on the list. There were other problems with this petition as well, but I highly recommend just reading this story in Scientific American.

Also this past year, Inhofe has been pushing a meme that "only 7%" of published scientists believe that anthropogenic emissions drive global warming, based on a study that couldn't even get published in a contrarian-friendly (non-ISI listed) journal.

UPDATE X: Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner are also listed by Inhofe, despite the fact that both believe anthropogenic global warming to be very real. From the executive summary of one of their papers:
We face a problem of anthropogenic climate change, but the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 has failed to tackle it.
It's a very interesting paper, by the way. But I just wanted to highlight again how dishonest it is for Inhofe to conflate "Disput[ing] Man-Made Warming Claims" with a policy difference on how to best handle anthropogenic warming.
(h/t Grist)

Graph: Fuel Economy

20 December 2007

(via Grist)

Steven Pinker: A Brief History of Violence

Graph: Filibusters

19 December 2007

(via Ezra Klein)

"The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail...and so far it's working for us. Democrats are taking the blame for not getting anything done."
(R) Trent Lott
Roll Call - April 18, 2007

UPDATE: As far as media coverage goes, I thought that this was very interesting:

A quick and dirty Lexis/Nexis search reveals that in 2007 the Times had 83 stories with the term "filibuster" and the Post had 187. Over the same period in 2005 (seemed like the first year of a Congressional session was the fair comparison), the term "filibuster" appeared in 358 Times stories and 407 Post stories.

(Steven Greene of North Carolina State University's Department of Political Science - via Glenn Greenwald)

Chris Matthews on Hillary Clinton - Part VIII

18 December 2007

From 1994:

I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for.

This is what Chris Matthews has to say today about the Des Moines Register's endorsement of Hillary Clinton:
MATTHEWS: The biggest news of this week, it's all weekend -- it's all we've been talking about, it went again this morning. The worst week of last week was Hillary Clinton. She may have gotten The Des Moines Register's endorsement the other day, thanks to her husband's lobbying with its female editors and publisher, but voters have spotted the dagger, and they don't like what it looks like. Hillary's loyal lieutenants are ready to scratch the eyes out of the opposition right now.

Part I: "Chinese" Clapping
Part II: "I hate her"
Part III: "Women with needs"
Part IV: "Our big number is the number five"
Part V: "Nurse Ratched"
Part VI: "Being for Hillary makes you feel subservient"
Part VII: "Castratos in the eunuch chorus"

Chris Matthews on Hillary Clinton - Part VII

17 December 2007

From 1994:

I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for.

This is what Chris Matthews has to say today about Tom Vilsack, Ted Strickland, and Evan Bayh, who have all chosen to endorse Hillary Clinton:

MATTHEWS: I'm talking about the moral weight. I'm talking about the moral weight on these people who are willing to do anything now. You got [former Iowa Gov. Tom] Vilsack out there, [Ohio Gov. Ted] Strickland, [Sen.] Evan Bayh [D-IN]. Every day I pick up a paper, there's another quote out there from somebody who's a wannabe, saying whatever the Clinton people told them to say, apparently.

CILLIZZA: Politics is politics, Chris.

MATTHEWS: These lines look like they're being fed -- well, let me find some outrage here. Can I get some from Chrystia? I'm not getting any from you. Chrystia, do you -- aren't you appalled at the willingness of these people to become castratos in the eunuch chorus here or whatever they are? What do you call them? I don't know what they are. What do you think of these people?

FREELAND: Well, I'm not going to comment on whether they have been castrated or not, but what I do think is interesting is whether these stings are really going to work.

Part I: "Chinese" Clapping
Part II: "I hate her"
Part III: "Women with needs"
Part IV: "Our big number is the number five"
Part V: "Nurse Ratched"
Part VI: "Being for Hillary makes you feel subservient"

This Week in Hyperbole: Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg has a new book coming out, titled "Liberal Fascists." The book's cover portrays a smiley face with a Hitler-style mustache. Here is an excerpt (via Matthew Yglesias):

The quote reads:

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

As Brendan Nyhan points out, this is especially funny given Goldberg's previous comments about how people should avoid using overwrought Nazi analogies:

1/5/01: "Nazism and the Holocaust are hardly joking matters. So let me be very careful in how I talk about this.

"If you honestly think John Ashcroft or elected Republicans in general are Nazis, then you are either a moron of ground-shaking proportions or you are so daft that you shouldn't be allowed to play with grown-up scissors."

..."Calling someone a Nazi is as bad as calling them a "nigger" or a "kike" or anything else you can think of. It's not cute. It's not funny. And it's certainly not clever. If you're too stupid to understand that a philosophy that favors a federally structured republic, with numerous restraints on the scope and power of government to interfere with individual rights or the free market, is a lot different from an ethnic-nationalist, atheistic, and socialist program of genocide and international aggression, you should use this rule of thumb: If someone isn't advocating the murder of millions of people in gas chambers and a global Reich for the White Man you shouldn't assume he's a Nazi and you should know it's pretty damn evil to call him one."

6/19/02: "[T]he use and abuse of Nazi analogies has been a major peeve of mine for quite some time."

9/4/03: "Suffice it to say that the Nazis weren't simply generically bad, they were uniquely and monumentally evil, not just in their hearts but also in literally billions of intentional, well-planned, and bureaucratized decisions they made every day.

"And yet, in polite and supposedly sophisticated circles in America today it is acceptable to say George Bush is akin to a Nazi and that America is becoming Nazi-like. Indeed, in certain corners of the globe to disagree with this assertion is the more outlandish position than to agree with it."

..."When you say that anything George Bush has done is akin to what Hitler did, you make the Holocaust into nothing more than an example of partisan excess. Tax cuts are not genocide, as so many Democrats have suggested over the years...

"Darn those Republicans" does not equal "Darn those Nazis." The Patriot Act is not the final solution. The handful of men in Guantanamo may not all be guilty of terrorism, but it's more than reasonable to assume they are. And no matter how you try to contort it, Gitmo is not the same thing as Auschwitz or Dachau. There are no children there. You don't get carted off to Cuba and gassed if you criticize the president or if you are one-quarter Muslim. And, inversely, there was no reasonable justification for throwing the Jews and the Gypsies and all the others into the death camps. The Jews weren't terrorists or members of a terrorist organization. To say that the men in Guantanamo -- or any of the Muslims being politely interviewed by appointment -- are akin to the Jews of Germany is to trivialize the experiences of the millions who were slaughtered. Even if you think Muslims are being unfairly inconvenienced, when you say they are the Jews of Nazified America you are in essence saying the worst crime of the Holocaust was to unfairly inconvenience the Jews.

Panel Discussion on Church and State

16 December 2007

Kevin Padian: Investigating Evolution

Debate - Glenn Greenwald and David Rivkin

15 December 2007

Bill of Rights Day

Happy Bill of Rights Day

Ed Rollins on the Founding Fathers

At a FOX News Republican debate back in October, Mike Huckabee said this:

When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator
That wasn't true. Not by a long shot.
Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

A few more of the signers were former clergymen, though it's a little unclear just how many. The conservative Heritage Foundation said two other signers were former clergymen. The religion web site said four signers of the declaration were current or former full-time preachers. But everyone agrees only Witherspoon was an active minister when he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Now, it looks like Huckabee's campaign chairman Ed Rollins is making a similar argument about the drafters of the Constitution. From CNN:

DOBBS: I have never, perhaps you have, but never in my experience have I seen so many candidates talking about God in a primary campaign and in a general election, I presume and it will remain there. How comfortable are you with that and is it appropriate for God to be in religion and faith to be this prominent in a secular campaign for president?

ROLLINS: You go back to the signing of the Constitution I think 26 of the people that signed it were ministers.

But only one of the signers (Abraham Baldwin) was a minister. Two if you count Hugh Williamson, who "became a licensed Presbyterian teacher but was never ordained.... he ... took a position as professor of mathematics at his alma mater." Where do they get this stuff?

(h/t Steve M.)

Graph: SO2-Control Patent Applications

14 December 2007

(From Carnegie Mellon - via Ezra Klein)

Correction of the Year

13 December 2007

From The Guardian:

We misspelled the word misspelled twice, as mispelled, in the Corrections and clarifications column on September 26, page 30.

Wolf Blitzer on Mike Huckabee on Mormonism

Wolf Blitzer hosted Mike Huckabee on the Situation Room, and asked him this question:

BLITZER (12/12/07): All right. The New York Times Sunday magazine has a long profile of you, and one line has jumped out and is causing a lot of commotion right now.

When you asked this question to the interviewer, the reporter who wrote the story, you said this: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Now, as you know, Mormons say that's a canard, they don't believe that, that's been a canard spread by people who don't like Mormonism.

I want you to explain what you were doing by even raising that question.

Is this really just "a canard spread by people who don't like Mormonism"? This is what the official Latter Day Saints website says:

On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. Lucifer, too, was an angel “who was in authority in the presence of God,” a “son of the morning.” (See Isa. 14:12; D&C 76:25–27.) Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother. (See Col. 1:15; D&C 93:21.)

How could two such great spirits become so totally opposite? The answer lies in the principle of agency, which has existed from all eternity. (See D&C 93:30–31.) Of Lucifer, the scripture says that because of rebellion “he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies.” (Moses 4:4.) Note that he was not created evil, but became Satan by his own choice.

When our Father in Heaven presented his plan of salvation, Jesus sustained the plan and his part in it, giving the glory to God, to whom it properly belonged. Lucifer, on the other hand, sought power, honor, and glory only for himself. (See Isa. 14:13–14; Moses 4:1–2.) When his modification of the Father’s plan was rejected, he rebelled against God and was subsequently cast out of heaven with those who had sided with him. (See Rev. 12:7–9; D&C 29:36–37.)

That brothers would make dramatically different choices is not unusual. It has happened time and again, as the scriptures attest: Cain chose to serve Satan; Abel chose to serve God. (See Moses 5:16–18.) Esau “despised his birthright”; Jacob wanted to honor it. (Gen. 25:29–34.) Joseph’s brothers sought to kill him; he sought to preserve them. (Gen. 37:12–24; Gen. 45:3–11.)

Is it really too much to ask for CNN to do a little bit of research before devolving into the he-said-she-said style of journalism?

ID and Scientific Publications

Michael Behe's publication record:

(via Stranger Fruit)

Guillermo Gonzalez's publication record:

(via Neurotopia)

Steve King's "Christian Nation" Nonsense

12 December 2007

Rep. Steve King (R-IA):

I recognized that we’re a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and we’re coming up to Christmastime. … It’s time we stood up and said so, and said to the rest of America, Be who you are and be confident. And let’s worship Christ and let’s celebrate Christmas for the right reasons.

Compare that with this:
" religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
- United States Constitution, Article VI, section 3
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .
- United States Constitution, First Amendment
"the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion"
-Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 (1796)

Also, this is what James Madison ("father of the Constitution") thought about the topic:
The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State (Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819).

Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and & Gov't in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history (Detached Memoranda, circa 1820).

Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together (Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822).

To the Baptist Churches on Neal's Greek on Black Creek, North Carolina I have received, fellow-citizens, your address, approving my objection to the Bill containing a grant of public land to the Baptist Church at Salem Meeting House, Mississippi Territory. Having always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, I could not have otherwise discharged my duty on the occasion which presented itself (Letter to Baptist Churches in North Carolina, June 3, 1811).


Chris Matthews on Hillary Clinton - Part VI

From 1994:

I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. Well, let me give you my theory.

RICH: Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: I think—I think that, for, rightly or wrongly, when people think about Hillary Clinton and their emotions are exposed, they feel that she thinks she’s better than us, morally as well as intellectually.

I think, when people think and feel about Obama, they feel that he makes us better than us. He makes us feel better than we thought we were. He makes us feel generous, tolerant, upbeat, fearless, future-oriented. Just to be for Obama makes you feel better. Being for Hillary makes you feel subservient to her, because she’s perfect. She has had to deal, as she put it, with “evil men.” She’s had to deal with people who are inferior to her, morally, all her life.

That’s my hunch. You like the feel of being for Obama. You don’t like the feel of being for Hillary. That’s my hunch.

Part I: "Chinese" Clapping
Part II: "I hate her"
Part III: "Women with needs"
Part IV: "Our big number is the number five"
Part V: "Nurse Ratched"

Iowa Citizens For Science

Iowa Citizens For Science has issued a press release regarding Guillermo Gonzalez's denial of Tenure at Iowa State University, and his new lawsuit based on that tenure denial:

Iowa Citizens for Science, a grassroots group dedicated to improving public education, feels that the Discovery Institute and Guillermo Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the creationist think tank, are circumventing the normal scientific process to promote their religious ideology. Gonzalez and the DI have announced plans to sue Iowa State University, asserting that ISU violated Dr. Gonzalez’ First Amendment rights in denying his tenure application.

The claim that his rights were violated seems odd to many observers. “How can Gonzalez complain if his work on ID was considered?” wonders Dr. Tara Smith, president of Iowa Citizens for Science and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa. “If intelligent design is scientific, his department is entitled judge his work in that field. If ID is not science, it’s fair to question why their faculty member is spending so much of his time and resources on it. The claims of persecution issuing from the Discovery Institute and Dr. Gonzalez require that intelligent design be both science and religion. This isn’t about science, it’s about politics.”

The ISU astronomy department did not publicly release detailed reasons for the tenure denial, but the Chronicle of Higher Education found that Gonzalez’ rate of publication had dropped off dramatically since he joined the ISU faculty. None of his graduate students had completed their programs, and he had not received grants from the National Science Foundation or NASA, the major funders of astronomical research. The decline in Gonzalez’ productivity corresponds to the time when he began writing and promoting intelligent design.

Dr. Paul Bartelt, past president of the Academy of Science and professor of biology at Waldorf College, is not surprised. “Intelligent design is not science, and it’s fairly predictable that his scientific productivity dropped off once he devoted himself to pursuing an unscientific agenda. I don’t know what his department considered, but declining scientific productivity and the reasons for that decline would be fair points to consider.” Tenure denial is not rare; a third of the applicants in Gonzalez’s department over the last decade were denied tenure.

Gonzalez listed The Privileged Planet, his book about intelligent design, in his tenure review file. “How can he and the DI claim that it was improper for ISU to consider the material he asked them to review?” Dr. Gregory Tinkler, of Iowa Citizens for Science, asked. “He invited his colleagues to consider his work on ID. His department and the scientific community have examined ID, and found that it isn’t science. Gonzalez made his best case and lost at every level of tenure review. Being a religious scientist is perfectly normal and acceptable, but scientists are supposed to be able to separate science from non-science, and good research from bad. Academic freedom protects a scientist’s ability to do science, not to pass off a political or religious crusade as science.”

In 2005, faculty members at ISU, the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa signed petitions to inform the public and policymakers that ID is not science. The Kansas Board of Education was considering ID-based science standards, and the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial under way in Dover, Pennsylvania was testing whether teaching intelligent design in public high schools was unconstitutional. A federal judge, John A. Jones, ruled in December, 2005 that intelligent design is a form of creationism making it a religious view and not a science, and that teaching it in public schools violates students’ First Amendment rights.

Iowa Citizens for Science is a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to improving science education in the Hawkeye State. Its membership consists of scientists, educators and parents from across the state. On the web at

Poll: Giuliani's Support

(From The Washington Post and ABC News - via TPM)

Poll: Head-to-Head Matchups

11 December 2007

(From a new CNN poll - via Matthew Yglesias)

Keep in mind that this is just one of many polls.

Robin Givhan on Hillary Clinton

09 December 2007

In July, Robin Givhan wrote a peculiar column in the Washington Post about Hillary Clinton's shirts (titled "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory"). According to Givhan, Clinton's slightly V-shaped neckline was "unnerving" and "startling." This bizarre piece about Clinton's cleavage was widely ridiculed.

Today, Givhan has another column. This one is about Clinton's pants (titled "Wearing the Pants").

The mind, so easily distracted by things mauve and lemon yellow, strays from more pressing concerns to ponder the sartorial: How many pantsuits does Hillary Clinton have in her closet? And does she ever wear them in the same combination more than once?

The pantsuit is Clinton's uniform. Hers is a mix-and-match world, a grown-up land of Garanimals: black pants with gray jacket, tan jacket with black pants, tan jacket with tan pants. There are a host of reasons to explain Clinton's attachment to pantsuits. They are comfortable. They can be flattering, although not when the jacket hem aligns with the widest part of the hips (hypothetically speaking, of course). Does she even have hips?

And because Clinton seems to prefer crossing her legs at the ankle -- in the way girls were taught when girls were still sent to finishing school -- there is less likelihood of any embarrassing straight-to-YouTube video.

Women have come a long way from the time when wearing a pair of pants was considered "borrowing from the boys." So it would be highly regressive to suggest that the candidate is using trousers to heighten the perception that she can be as tough as a man. And yet . . .

This is a campaign in which gender stereotypes are being challenged even as the old assumptions are proving stubborn and resilient. Voters are being asked to envision something this country has never had: a female commander in chief. And the culture is gently roiling as audiences try to color in the outline of an XX president.

Is even considering the senator's clothes a kind of chauvinistic assault? Or is it merely the intellect trying to wrangle some sort of order out of the imagination? Oh, the tumult!

I understand that political coverage will occasionally go into the personal lives and details of the candidates. It can't be all policy, all the time. But isn't this a bit too silly to put in section A of one of the nation's leading news publications? Really, does anybody other than Givhan have to "wrangle" with the idea that Clinton wears pantsuits?

UPDATE: Apparently, Givhan won a Pulitzer in 2006 for "her witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism." Am I missing something here? Because all I see is fashion criticism and celebrity gossip, wrapped up in psychologizing statements and attempts at mind-reading ("it is not so far-fetched to believe that her wardrobe is a way of reminding voters that a woman can have as much peacock bravado as the boys").

Am I just being overly critical here, or has the media generally trivialized election coverage by overusing "fashion critics" and "body language experts"?

Mormonism & American Politics: Church and State

08 December 2007

Rupert Murdoch Makes Promises

May 4, 2007:

Most readers just write a letter to the editor. Mr. Murdoch offered $5 billion to buy The Journal's parent company, Dow Jones & Company. To do that, he must first win over the Bancroft family, which has controlled Dow Jones for the last 92 years and has so far resisted all of his overtures, in part over concerns of what he might do to The Journal. He insists he won't meddle in the journalism or slash-and-burn the staff.


He said that he admired the Dow Jones chief executive, Richard F. Zannino, and the newly appointed top editor, Marcus W. Brauchli, and would leave them in place. He said that he did not plan on bringing any News Corporation editors to the paper, but that he did plan to call on Robert Thomson, the editor of his Times of London and the former editor of the United States edition of The Financial Times, for advice.
Yesterday, well, Zannino was forced out and two News Corp. executives were brought in.

I guess that wasn't exactly true.

Chris Matthews on Hillary Clinton - Part V

07 December 2007

From 1994:

I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for.
From 1999:
On the August 3, 1999, edition of Hardball, Matthews asserted, "[Hillary Clinton is] now saying, 'I kept this emotional basket case going all these years, because I'm a good Nurse Ratched, and this is a cuckoo's nest at the White House. But now I'm ready to be off on my own, so elect me as the nurse.'"
On the August 2, 1999, edition of Hardball, Matthews asked The New York Observer's Tish Durkin, "[D]o you want to be so disciplined as to propose yourself as the new Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Does [Clinton] really want to play herself as this tough nurse that looked out for this guy who has psychological problems like -- like the Jack Nicholson gu -- character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Nurse Ratched, 'I'm a nurse. I stuck with him because he needed therapy.' " Later, in an interview with Gennifer Flowers on the same episode of Hardball, Matthews asserted, "[N]ow it seems like she's offering herself in a new role, as a kind of a person who's had a therapeutic role in life. Sh -- her job is to take care of a -- a delinquent, someone with psychological problems that she's had to fix or deal with or accept or maintain, or whatever you will, not as particularly a political partner, which was a role she offered up before. You know, for -- you get two for the price of one. Now you get a nurse for the price of the patient, all right? What do you think about her offering herself as Nurse Ratched to -- to the cuckoo's nest here?"
MATTHEWS: But then he did. He quoted her back to her, which was the best shot. So does her attack on him for having had ambition as a teeny-bopper -- not a teeny-bopper, a kindergartner, does she look like Nurse Ratched here?
Part I: "Chinese" Clapping
Part II: "I hate her"
Part III: "Women with needs"
Part IV: "Our big number is the number five"

Mitt Romney's Religion Speech

06 December 2007

Mitt Romney is set to give a speech about his Mormon religion, and has released excerpts to the press. Here is one sample:

"Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."

It seems strange to see Romney invoke the civil rights movement here to make an argument for the inherent goodness of religious solidarity. This is somewhat besides his point (which appears to be carefully worded), but Romney's Mormon religion has a somewhat checkered history with regards to the civil rights movement.

From the April 13, 1959 edition of Time magazine:
Whatever they may do or leave undone about their Negro brethren, most U.S. churches hold that all men are equal before God. One notable exception: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon teaches that the colored races are descendants of the evil children of Laman and Lemuel, who impiously warred against the good children of Nephi and received their pigmented skin as punishment. Last week a Utah State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights drew on this Mormon scripture in a scathing report on the state of the tiny nonwhite minority in Utah.

This is what Brigham Young taught his followers:
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, p.109)
Additionally, people of the African race were not permitted into the priesthood until 1978. From the June 19, 1978 edition of Time magazine:
It was a historic moment for Mormons, who believe that the prohibition against blacks as priests goes back as far as the sons of Adam. It is taught in the Book of Abraham, one of three scriptures revealed to Prophet Joseph Smith and accepted as holy writ only by Mormons. According to the key verse, descendants of Cain (identified elsewhere in Mormon scripture as blacks) are "cursed as pertaining to the priesthood." Because of this the racial bar could only be lifted by a "revelation" direct from God. The church leaders said they had spent many hours in the Upper Room of the Salt Lake City Temple. Eventually God "confirmed that the long-promised day has come."

Of course, the church has since come around, and every Mormon I've ever met has been super-nice, and not at all racist in any perceivable way. It's also worth noting that Romney's father marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement. I don't intend on casting aspersions on the Mormon people collectively. But I think that it's important to point out that it was not exactly a leading light in the move for equality, and that it finally came around despite traditional church doctrine.

Nor was Jerry Falwell quite on board with the civil rights movement. In fact, he called it the "civil wrongs" movement.

Romney's point in the quote I cited at the beginning appears to be merely that social justice causes need to get religious people on board in order to succeed. I just wanted to point out that sometimes, they also have to run counter to those religious establishments, doctrines, and leaders who resist and retard progress.

Likewise, the Christian bible has passages sanctioning slavery, ordering the execution of homosexuals, and making parental disobedience a death-penalty offense. Nonetheless, these very specific and very absurd passages (like the very absurd Mormon passages relating to black people) have been superseded by vague "love your neighbor" passages. That is a very good thing (for everyone but the biblical literalists). However, "love your neighbor" is not a specifically religious concept.

I think that this is a very important distinction to draw. That's why it bothers me when people like Mitt Romney and Dinesh D'Souza try to claim religion as the exclusive or primary source of these values. That's also why it bothers me so much when Mitt Romney draws his moral circle specifically to exclude the non-religious, as he did here: "One of the great things about this land is that we have people of different faiths and different religions, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country."

The "love your neighbor rule" of ethics is one shared by all of us, religious and non-religious alike. It is this that has overridden the awful, discriminatory and wrong practices of the past (even those codified in Church doctrine).

UPDATE: The speech has been made. It is available here.

I disagree very much with this:
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
Seriously. As a non-religious person, I find it highly absurd (and offensive) that Mitt Romney thinks my beliefs are incompatible with freedom.

Also, is anybody else bothered by the fact that this Mitt Romney quote:
"A person should not be elected because of his faith"
DIRECTLY contradicts this Mitt Romney quote?
"One of the great things about this land is that we have people of different faiths and different religions, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country."
Because they undoubtedly say exactly opposite things. They are 100% in conflict with each other. He talks big about religious tolerance when it comes to Mormonism, but doesn't seem to apply the same standard to atheism and agnosticism.

I also don't care for this:
I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God.
Seriously? Every faith? Even the Westboro Baptist Church, the Raelians, and Heaven's Gate? Because some faiths are seriously crazy.

Romney also quotes the passage I used to kick off this blog:
It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.
There's more inanity to the speech (much more), but I'll leave it here, at the same place I started.

UPDATE II: Here is Chris Matthews's reaction:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I have to say if he wins the presidency, it started here . . . For the first time in this campaign, and it's been a long campaign, I heard greatness this morning.
No surprises here. According to Matthews, "He has the perfect chin, the perfect hair, he looks right."

UPDATE III: Andrew Sullivan responds here:
By insisting on faith - any faith - as the proper criterion for public office, Romney draws the line, oh-so-conveniently, so as to include Mormonism but exclude atheism and agnosticism. And so he side-steps the critical issue in the debates over religion in public life: what if there is no unifying faith for a nation? What if faith itself cannot unify a nation - and, in fact, can divide it more deeply than any other subject? That is our reality. An intelligent and wise conservative would try to find a path to a common discourse that does not rest on religious foundations.

The second flaw is that he simply cannot elide the profound theological differences between the LDS church and mainstream Christianity. Since I'm a secularist - a Christian secularist - this doesn't make a difference to me. But if you are appealing to religious people, especially fundamentalists, on the basis of faith, you cannot logically then ask them to ignore the content of the faith. The religious right have tried to do this with the absurd neologism, the "Judeo-Christian tradition," as if the truth-claims of Christianity and Judaism are not, at bottom, contradictory. But the "Mormon-Judeo-Christian tradition" is a step too far even for those who have almost no principles in using religion for political purposes.

UPDATE IV: Jonathan Rowe reacts here:
I agree with Andrew Sullivan. The biggest problem I have with his speech is Romney seems to try and form an alliance with other religious conservatives, mainly orthodox Christians — find common ground between them — and gang up on secularists, atheists, and agnostics, in an us versus them mentality. America belongs to everyone, not just religious folks.
UPDATE V: Rev. Barry Lynn's reaction:

“I think it is telling that Romney quoted John Adams instead of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison,” Lynn continued. “Jefferson and Madison are the towering figures who gave us religious liberty and church-state separation.

“I was also disappointed that Romney doesn’t seem to recognize that many Americans are non-believers,” Lynn continued. “Polls repeatedly show that millions of people have chosen to follow no spiritual path at all. They’re good Americans too, and Romney ought to have recognized that fact.

UPDATE VI: Mitt Romney frames the separation of church and state like this: "They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong." Don Byrd points out the absurdity of this straw-man argument:
We are a nation full of religious individuals and communities, but not a religious nation. Church-state separation is necessary to preserve religious freedom - both the freedom to believe and the equally important freedom not to believe. It is not an effort to remove God or religion, nor to "separate us from God." It is simply the requirement that agents of government refrain - in their official capacity - from promoting or preferring, criticizing or harassing religious believers and non-believers. When the official institutions of the state are free of the enactment of religion, then and only then can the business of religious liberty really begin.

The kind of fear-mongering we see from candidates today - contorting the institutional separation of church and state into a supposedly serious threat to the place of God in our lives - preys on many Americans' most solemnly held beliefs. It is the height of cynicism and exploitation.

UPDATE VII:'s Hugh Hewitt thinks that the speech was "simply magnificent, and anyone who denies it is not to be trusted as an analyst."

UPDATE VIII: Constitutional law professor Jack Balkin's analysis:
Although this may lose any remaining respect Hugh has for my opinions, I beg to differ. The speech is chock full of (how can I put this delicately?) rhetorical tensions. On the one hand, "[A] presidential candidate [should not have to] describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution." On the other hand, two paragraphs later Romney emphasizes that "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind." Having announced that it would be wrong to go into details about his beliefs, why does he emphasize that one single issue, an issue which separates his beliefs from many religions, but says nothing that might separate him from conservative Christians? Why does he rush to emphasize Jesus's divinity but not other aspects of Mormonism that are just as important and perhaps more distinctive? The answer is that despite his statements to the contrary, he knows there is a religious test for public office, and the people grading the exams are the Republican base.

Again, on the one hand, "A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith." On the other hand, "[f]reedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," and "We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. . . .Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'" These remarks strongly identify Americans and Americanism with belief in God. Romney does nothing to suggest otherwise. Indeed, his central point is that the religious share "a common creed of moral convictions." Note carefully his list of religions that form this common creed, all Western and monotheist
It is not a call for religious tolerance, unless tolerance means scrambling to identify yourself with majority religions and lumping together every other belief system as alien to American values and outside the "common creed of moral convictions" that all true Americans share.
UPDATE IX: David Brooks reacts:

When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

UPDATE X: The National Review's Ranesh Ponnuru:
It would have been nice if Romney, while making room for people of all faiths in this country, could have also made some room for people with none.
UPDATE XI: Pat Buchanan has a predictably awful take on this speech:
He moved up to that higher common ground on which we all can stand. The ground on which all Americans stand is the dignity of the individual as a child of God.
No. That's not common ground at all. It leaves out millions of Americans who believe no such thing. All he's doing is broadening the circle of acceptance to include Mormons (notice how he says he won't explain Church doctrine, then goes on to conveniently mention just the Mormon doctrine that overlaps with that of traditional Christians) and specifically exclude nonbelievers.

UPDATE XII: Well maybe George Romney didn't quite march with Martin Luther King, Jr. after all:

A defensive Romney was peppered with questions today on exactly what he meant when he said -- most recently on Meet the Press -- that he "saw" his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. Recent articles have indicated that his father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, didn't march with the civil-rights leader.

Admitting that he didn't see the march with his own eyes, he said, "I 'saw' him in the figurative sense."

"The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights," he said, "and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership."

"I've tried to be as accurate as I can be," he continued, smiling firmly. "If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of -- in the sense I've described."

The questioning did not relent. "I'm an English literature major," he insisted at one point. "When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." (He meant the Super Bowl, of course.)

Gonzalez and Comer

Ben Stein has a new documentary coming out in which he posits that creationism is being unfairly "Expelled" from classrooms and Universities. Apparently, it's because of some sort of Nazi-like conspiracy, rather than the inability of any Intelligent Design proponents to produce any real research on the topic. As an example of this persecution, Ben Stein and the Discovery Institute like to mention the fact that Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure when he first applied at ISU. I've written about this before, but Joshua Rosenau has a concise summary here, comparing the Gonzalez case to another recent account:

It's been days since the public became aware that Chris Comer, an award-winning science educator in the Texas Education Agency, was fired for daring to forward an email announcement of a talk about why intelligent design isn't science. Coverage of the story has hit the AP wires, the pages of USA Today, the New York Times, Nature's news blog and many other sources. The Times editorial page even weighed in with concern over Ms. Comer's firing.

The Disco. Inst., usually quick to complain about any academic personnel decision touching on ID in the least way, has remained totally silent. Actually, that's wrong. They are incapable of silence. For the last few days they've been working themselves into a frenzy over a department of physics and astronomy not granting tenure.

No, it's not a protest over Rob Knop leaving academia, nor of Sean Carroll's tenure denial at the University of Chicago. It isn't concern for John Wilkins. It surely isn't concern for Chris Comer, nor for Steve Bitterman, an Iowan community college instructor fired for arguing that Biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden are not historically accurate.

It was all a protest over Guillermo Gonzalez, a founding member of the Wedge, a regular contributor to the magazine produced Reasons to Believe, an old earth creationist group. Gonzalez was denied tenure earlier this year at Iowa State University, and Disco decided to put on a show about it. Coincidentally, Gonzalez is featured in the DI's forthcoming movie: "Expelled: No intelligence…."

This whole song and dance is too absurd for words. Gonzalez had a poor record of grant-writing, a poor record of graduating students, limited telescope time, and his record of publication tailed off since he started working on his ID creationist book. He even submitted that book as part of his tenure file, yet he and the DI are shocked (shocked!) that his department would consider his ID work. At the very least they are shocked (shocked?) that his colleagues were unenthusiastic about that work.

I wonder if Stein will mention Chris Comer or Steve Bitterman in his movie.

"Nothing came before Christianity"?

05 December 2007

This apparently came from a discussion of Epicurus. Epicurus, by the way, died in 270B.C. (that means "before Christ").

UPDATE: These discussions are really awful.

Primate Memory Test

FOX News Has the Story - Part XIII

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!

This Week's Links

04 December 2007